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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 68,702

Journal Archives

Our glorious Thanksgiving unraveling: Race, protest, patriotism — and the forming, finally, of a ...

Our glorious Thanksgiving unraveling: Race, protest, patriotism — and the forming, finally, of a true American spirit

(Salon) It is fascinating to watch these student protests arising around the country—the University of Missouri, Yale, Princeton, many others. Students, your timing could not be more arresting: Intentionally or otherwise, you give all of us something to be thankful for today and, one hopes, all days to come.

The proceedings that stir me most are those at Princeton. Students from the Black Justice League started a sit-in at the president’s office last week, demanding that Woodrow Wilson’s name be stripped from all buildings and academic programs bearing his name. Talk about grand ambitions. One may as well propose taking St. Patrick’s name off that big pile of marble on Fifth Avenue at 51st Street in Manhattan.

Wilson, a Southerner and scion of a Presbyterian minister, was a Princeton graduate, a scholar, what we would today call a public intellectual and, before becoming the 13th resident at the White House, Princeton’s president. He is famous for his Fourteen Points, the League of Nations and a certain kind of intrusive internationalism now known as Wilsonianism. Every president who has served during your lifetime was one or another kind of Wilsonian or neo-Wilsonian or what have you. (I await more eagerly than I can say our first post-Wilsonian president.)

Wilson was also a racist—a grand-scale racist. He took his inherited ring-for-the-servants racism global. In 1901, while American soldiers were slaughtering Filipinos who had fought for their independence from Spain, Wilson published an essay in The Atlantic called “Democracy and Efficiency.” In it he explained America’s duty in the century then to come. “The East is to be opened and transformed, whether we will or no. The standards of the West are to be imposed upon it,” he wrote. These “underdeveloped people,” he explained, were “still in the childhood of their political growth.”


Among much else, it is for the task our time hands us that one must be thankful this Thanksgiving. What is the task? To construct a post-exceptionalist idea of ourselves. We need this just as badly was we need a post-exceptionalist president.


Waldo Frank, a now-forgotten writer who deserves better, published a book in 1929 called “The Re-Discovery of America.” In it he asked in rhetorical fashion, “What nation knows so little of its own beginnings?” ................(more)


Chris Hedges and Alexa O’Brien on the Militarization of Higher Education

In this episode of his new teleSUR show, “Days of Revolt,” Chris Hedges discusses the militarization of higher education institutions with journalist Alexa O’Brien. Uncovering the trail of money and influence from the national security state to college programs, Hedges and O’Brien identify the ways in which this apparatus has long ­been in effect, and what it could mean for the future.


Calling Out the Republican Party as a Hate Group

Calling Out the Republican Party as a Hate Group

Tuesday, 24 November 2015 00:00
By Michael I. Niman, Truthout | Op-Ed

In October, about a week before Election Day, a Republican candidate running for a city council seat rang my doorbell in Buffalo, New York, with the hope of securing my vote. Despite a very well-funded campaign coordinated by a seasoned Republican strategist, the candidate, Peter Rouff, was still a long shot. The last time a registered Republican was elected to the Buffalo City Council was over a generation earlier, in 1981.

Rouff seemed like an affable guy. He was a dinosaur, cut from a mold that his party threw away decades earlier, who suddenly found himself transported into the future. He was a liberal New York Republican, a species no one younger than a baby boomer could recognize or fathom, the ghost of John Lindsey or Jacob Javits.

But this is 2015. So, after shaking hands and hearing him out on his concerns for our community, I asked him, "How'd you get associated with a hate group?" The local Republican Party, despite having no power in local government, still maintained an official Facebook page, where they posted Donald-Trump-grade drivel, joking about putting a coal facsimile of President Obama's head on Mount Rushmore, promoted notions of an epidemic of Black-on-white "hate crimes," and so on. Rouff countered that I was using harsh language. It only took a few days for his Republican handlers to prove the accuracy of my language, sending out two racially coded mailers.

After writing a local piece about the Rouff mailers, including the line about association with a hate group, I started getting mail along the lines of, "I think I'm going to use that line the next time a Republican asks for my vote." But this got me thinking. Why not use this line anytime I find myself in the presence of a Republican? Why ignore what has, especially recently, become the obvious? On what grounds can I justify ignoring a racist movement? Because calling out someone's association with a hate group is impolite? Or are we just taking our lead from the mainstream media, which has a long history of being toxically polite in their tolerance for mainstream racists and misogynists? .............(more)


The New Nativist Hysteria Is Illegitimate, Divisive and Dangerous

from truthdig:

The New Nativist Hysteria Is Illegitimate, Divisive and Dangerous

Posted on Nov 24, 2015
By Bill Blum

The numbers could still rise, but as of the end of last week, governors in some 30 states had announced that they would close their borders to refugees from Syria.

The House of Representatives also roared into action, approving the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015 by a resounding margin of 289-137, in an effort to “suspend” the admission of new migrants from either Syria or Iraq.

After securing passage of the SAFE Act, the House Republican leadership vowed to introduce additional anti-immigrant measures. One bill—the Protection of Children Act—would expedite the deportation of unaccompanied alien minors. Another—the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act—would restrict the grounds available for aliens inside the U.S. to claim political asylum.

At the same time, out on the hustings, GOP campaign rhetoric is soaring to new heights of xenophobia. Not content with his bellicose promise to build a wall along our nation’s southern border, Donald Trump told NBC News on Thursday that if elected he would compile a national registry of Muslim-Americans and that he would consider issuing them special IDs denoting their religion. Following suit, in a speech delivered in Alabama, Ben Carson compared some Syrian refugees with “rabid dogs.”

Nativist hysteria and scapegoating are nothing unusual in our history, but the current iteration is especially malignant because it has gone mainstream so rapidly—even 47 Democrats voted in favor of the SAFE Act. And while the malignancy was certainly in place before the barbaric Islamic State attacks of Nov. 13 in Paris, the attacks have given it a veneer of legitimacy that would have been unthinkable only a few weeks earlier. ..............(more)


Dean Baker: Big Insurance's Health-Care Scam for the Holidays

by Dean Baker, Truthout

Last week, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), the country's largest health insurance company, announced that it was considering leaving the health care exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It claimed that it was losing money on the plans it offers in the exchange, so it might decide to give up this market.

The prospect of UHC leaving the exchanges naturally delighted foes of Obamacare. Many quickly celebrated this as the beginning of the end. If other insurers follow the lead of UHC, there may be no one left offering insurance in the exchanges. And if there are no exchanges, there is no Obamacare. People would no longer be guaranteed the option to buy an insurance policy without regard to their health.

Before we join the death of Obamacare celebration there are a few questions worth asking. First, is UHC really losing money in all of the exchanges in which it is participating? Remember each of these state exchanges are treated as separate pools, with rates set based on the costs for treating people in the state. If UHC is pulling out of all the exchanges does that mean it is losing money in every single state? Presumably that would be the case, since it's hard to see why UHC would be leaving a market in which it is making money.

If UHC really is losing money in all the exchanges it has entered, that would really say a great deal about the competence of UHC's management. The day after UHC's announcement, Aetna, another major insurer, announced that it was happy with the performance of its plans in the exchanges and that it has no intention of leaving this market. If Aetna can apparently make a profit in most of the exchanges and UHC can't make money in any of them, then it doesn't sound like UHC is run by a very good team. ...................(more)


COP21: Too Little, Too Late? Temperature, CO2 Thresholds Breached as Climate Disruption Intensifies

COP21: Too Little, Too Late? Temperature, CO2 Thresholds Breached as Climate Disruption Intensifies

Monday, 23 November 2015 00:00
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

In the book The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen's journey deep into the Nepali Himalaya to spot a snow leopard merely scratches the surface of his inner journey. Nature and our experiences in and with it are, I believe, the clearest mirror of ourselves we could ever hope for.

I told my father I'm rereading this book, and he wrote me back: "Love that book. It was a time in that part of the world when things were still pristine before tourism brought the kinds of people that should never have polluted that sacred environment."

Agreeing with him, I shared what I'd always believed, or at least had always hoped to believe: that there are still those pristine places to be found - it is just that one must travel further, much further, into the "frontiers" to find them.


Well in advance of the Paris talks, the UN announced that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has locked in another 2.7 degrees Celsius warming at a minimum, even if countries move forward with the pledges they make to cut emissions. Hence, even the 2 degree Celsius goal is already unattainable. However, similar to the way in which national elections in the United States continue to maintain the illusion that this country is a democracy, and "We the People" truly have legitimate representation in Washington, DC, illusions must be maintained at the COP21.

Thus, the faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.

Japan's meteorological office announced that this past September was, by far, the warmest September on record, and records now show that October has also become the hottest recorded October. As a whole, 2015 remains easily on course to become the hottest year ever recorded. ...............(more)


NSA Leaker Thomas Drake Praises Report Showing U.S.’ Failure Toward Whistleblowers


via truthdig:

Whistleblower Thomas Drake, who in 2010 became the first American charged with espionage in almost 40 years and who was a predecessor of Edward Snowden, applauds a new report by the PEN American Center accusing the government of failing to protect whistleblowers.

The report comes after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at last month’s Democratic debate that NSA whistleblower Snowden “could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower” instead of leaking materials to the press. PEN’s report shows that Clinton is wrong and that the U.S. government gives employees and contractors little assurance that they won’t be prosecuted, even if they go through sanctioned channels.

Of his experience as a whistleblower, Drake said during “Secret Sources: Whistleblowers, National Security and Free Expression,” a panel at the Newseum in Washington examining the impact of the Obama administration’s response to national security leaks, “I had become a dissident, as far as the NSA was concerned (...) If you become a dissident, the white blood cells kick in, culturally, to get rid of you.”

Charges that Drake passed classified documents to a newspaper reporter were dropped in 2011. He said of the PEN report to Al-Jazeera’s “America Tonight”:

Probably the biggest takeaway for me is it’s one of the first reports that actually pulled this information all together in a cogent fashion. It gives a history. It shows the dynamics. It shows how things have evolved. It shows how far the administrations, particularly President Obama, have gone in pursuing those who would dare hold up a mirror to power. It talks about the lack of protections for sources. It highlights the risks to journalism, as sources, like myself, are considering engaging in criminal activity. It raises serious questions, extraordinarily disturbing questions, about the government.

The irony of it, in my own case, was that the media was largely my saving grace. The media began to put a spotlight on what was happening. What’s at stake here is free press, to conduct aggressive journalism when dealing with very sensitive topics. National security has an extraordinarily overwhelming influence right now, and it tends to get what it wants. There really is no limit in terms of how much security you want. You want a perfectly secure society? Then I have to give up all rights and all freedoms, but what does that look like? I can play that game, the what-if scenarios. What if? What if? What if? Is it really worth it?

We need a robust press, because that’s the foundation of our form of government and the foundation of any free and open society. But what we’re seeing is a very disturbing trend, as there’s a much more autocratic presence that’s exerting itself. It’s a control mechanism that’s born out of fear, and I think it speaks, very disturbingly, to the darker sides of the human condition.

Here, read Drake describe the burden taken on by whistleblowers and his last few years spent in the sights of the U.S. Justice Department.

White House Goes Soft on Thailand's Junta During TPP Push

White House Goes Soft on Thailand's Junta During TPP Push

Friday, 20 November 2015 00:00
By Clara Herzberg, Truthout | Op-Ed

While the world watched Myanmar's historic vote in mid-November, another military dictatorship in Southeast Asia was busy putting off its own elections with a little help from Washington. For the past 18 months, Thailand has been suffering under the heavy thumb of junta leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the ex-general who overthrew democratically elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in May 2014. Instead of offering any serious pushback against military rule in Thailand, the Obama administration has instead sacrificed its commitment to democracy at the altar of the Trans-Pacific Partnership - that jumbled mess of corporate interests the president now wants to force through Congress.

In October, the new US ambassador to Bangkok "welcomed with open arms" the Thai junta's desire to join the TPP. Not that human rights or elected government ever had much to do with Obama's poster-child free trade agreement - the inclusion of Vietnam left no doubt on that front.

In his defense, Ambassador Glyn Davies stressed in that same Bangkok Post interview that US-Thai relations could not return to "normal" until Thailand had elected civilian leaders. To give an idea of just how important Thailand's road back to democracy is for the US, here is Davies in his own words: "... we hope you can get back to that soon because I want that relationship to be at 100%. But it won't stop me from working on the other 95% of the relationship in the meantime."

Since the coup, the US military partnership with Thailand has continued and Obama has deigned not to sanction the junta for its failure to combat human trafficking or its human rights abuses. Just how important is it for the administration, then, that people in Thailand reclaim the right to choose their own leaders? Five percent sounds about right. .................(more)


"We have not heard such blatant, shameless lying from intelligence and military officials......

...... since 2002 and 2003 when they propagandized the country into invading Iraq based on utterly false pretenses."

Published on Nov 19, 2015

As France and Belgium move to expand state power in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, top U.S. officials have renewed a push to defend mass surveillance and dismiss those who challenge it. On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said intelligence and law enforcement officials need to have access to encrypted information on smartphones, despite no evidence that the Paris attackers used encryption. Meanwhile, others have used the Paris attacks to criticize NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In recent days, CIA Director John Brennan has suggested revelations about mass spying have made it harder to find terrorists, while former CIA Director James Woolsey has said Snowden has blood on his hands. "We have not heard such blatant, shameless lying from intelligence and military officials since 2002 and 2003 when they propagandized the country into invading Iraq based on utterly false pretenses," says The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who exposed NSA mass surveillance based on Snowden’s leaks. "It is actually shocking to listen to."

Democracynow.org - Democracy Now!, is an independent global news hour that airs weekdays on 1,300+ TV and radio stations Monday through Friday. Watch our livestream 8-9am ET: http://democracynow.org

"Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. ............

....... The masses have to be won by propaganda.

-- Hannah Arendt


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